Why ride a touring bike? Week 15, skinny tires and the Orphan Master’s Son

Here’s my trusty Giant Iguana bicycle, purchased in the early 1990’s.

It’s sensible and reliable, serves well for trips to the grocery store, visiting friends and going to the gym.  Since it weighs about 100 pounds, it really should count as exercise by itself.  Think of it as a mini van.

A real giant iguana

Here’s my other bike.  It’s for “touring”.  We bought it in 199-something from a friend for a song when our children were small and I had illusions about keeping up with them. Think of it as a Fiat Spider.

Note that it’s hanging from the ceiling to save space. The Man of the House rigged this up. He’s very handy.

The “Head Badge” (bike talk for logo) on my bike. A Vintage Bicycle site dates this 1990-96

This bike’s sole purpose is to race around.  Compared to the Giant Iguana, it is light as air.  It requires special shoes, which I like because they make my feet look small, although they are hard to walk in.

Riding this bicycle also requires special clothes.

Would you wear these pants? No, that’s not Kotex in the middle. It’s padding. After a few miles you’re grateful for it.

Note the gloves, fingerless so you can shift gears, and nice if you fall off because they protect your hands from scraping on the pavement, a.k.a., as my yoga teacher says, from bicycle stigmata.

There really should be protection for knees, too, because the special shoes “clip in”, meaning they snap onto the pedals.  Disconnecting in an emergency usually takes longer than it takes to hit the ground.  Knee pads, however, aren’t de rigueur.  Look:

Tour de France.  Thank you Boston.com for the photo

Perhaps road raspberries are a badge of honor?  Or perhaps, if you crash the rest of you is so messed up your knees don’t matter?

Photo credit Atomic Gator

I’m reading a novel about North Korea, The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson — really good by the way — which puts racy bikes into perspective.  When fishermen in the book come across brand new Air Jordan Nikes floating in the ocean, they can’t figure out what they’re for.  For exercise, one of them suggests.  Imperialists drive everywhere and have so much food that they have to exercise or they get fat.  Some even do it for fun.

It is fun.

Clearly though, there are simpler, cheaper, safer ways to exercise and have fun, even on a bicycle. So why ride a touring bike?  And honestly, a fify-mmph woman riding a touring bike is maybe a little … ? OK, maybe downright foolish.  Why, in fact, would anyone get on something with tires as wide across as dimes, balance on the white line on country roads while hay trucks suck you into their wake, pickup truck drivers give you the finger, and Buick drivers honk and brush your shoulder with their mirrors?

I think it makes more sense for an old person to ride one of these risky business machines than a young one.  Squish your private parts on that hard seat for a couple hours and for sure you’re going to jeopardize the next generation, and besides, if you’re just starting out, you shouldn’t want to do things that might cut your time on earth short.  Of course, none of us wants to do anything that would make us a burden to our children.

Let’s just say, people who ride this way are optimists.

And beside, it’s —  anyone want to fill in here?  I have my reasons, but this post is getting long, so I’ll pull a Charles Dickens Serial: To Be Continued.

If you ride a lightweight bike, and clip in and all the rest, why do you do it? If you don’t, feel free to try to talk sense into me, but be forewarned, I’m in pretty deep.

This is part of an ongoing series from my other blog, Week 15 of 104 rides in 52 weeks. Some readers are having trouble with Blogspot, so I’m in the process of combining the two. Last week rode/commuted 7 times.  Grand total since April 15 start date:  42 (12 rides in the bank).


  • I hated riding as a kid. I hate riding as an adult. But as exercise goes, I’ve been told by several doctors that bike riding and swimming are two of the best. Good luck and try to have fun!


  • Wow! You are in deep 🙂 So long as you enjoy it, I say keep at it! I’m buying a bike myself. I just moved right next to a trail but I’m opting for the wide tire version. Don’t think I can be trusted with those skinny tires!


  • You’re smart to go with those cushy tires. The new wide-tire bikes are nice and light, too, and some are very chic. I think the Age of Bicycling is upon us. Happy riding and thanks for the visit.


  • I’m not a bike rider (bad things happen when I am on wheels and exercising), but it’s awesome to hear how passionate you are about this. I love that you have special shoes and clothes for it. I got into belly dancing for a while and had all the accessories to support my activity. 🙂


  • See, there you go. Three gears will not do it. You need a minimum of SEVEN. Seriously. Twenty one is even better. Especially if you’re riding with your guy. I note that you omit saying whether whether you want to ride or not. Key! If not, hang on to that 3 speed. Thanks for the visit.


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